Insubordinate Costume

Marshall, Susan. 2021. Insubordinate Costume. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Insubordinate Costume)
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Abstract or Description

Working as a costume designer/maker I became increasingly interested in the agency and power of costume and the different ways costumes can transform the performing body, override fixed boundaries and subvert the traditional hierarchies of the theatre where the costume designer/maker is typically required to accommodate the wishes of the director or choreographer. The costumes in this study are the antitheses of subordinate costume, which is often dictated to by practicalities, or placed within the confines of text, directorial notions, predefined choreography or the passive function of dressing actors. In this research, I examine historical and contemporary examples of scenographic costume: the type of costume that creates an almost complete stage environment by itself, simultaneously acting as costume, set and performance. With reference to theories of play and creativity, I explore the way costume can be used as a research tool and investigate how playing with my modular Insubordinate Costumes enables different creative interpretations and offers diverse dramaturgical possibilities. The term Insubordinate Costume evolved from my research and is used to reflect the defiant, rebellious and unruly nature of costume when it flouts practicalities and textual confines to embrace the role of protagonist. In order to explore the agency of my Insubordinate Costumes, I developed flat-pack modular pieces which can be constructed in different ways and organised workshops with both single performers and small groups in order to analyse a range of different approaches to performance making. The rule of play is essential to the approach to these costumes, both in the playful essence of the costume and in the way the body interacts with it. Although the modular pieces are always the same, the resulting sculptural forms created by each performer have always been unique, as have their performances.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

Additional Information:

This is an edited version of the thesis, with third-party copyright material removed.


Insubordinate Costume, agency of costume, costume workshops, scenographic costume, modules, performance, play

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Theatre and Performance (TAP)


31 December 2021

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

17 Jan 2022 17:16

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:19


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